“I now walk into the wild” are the last words that Chris McCandless sent his friend Wayne Westerberg before trekking into the Alaskan wilderness. It’s hard not to be touched in some way by McCandless’s story. Yes he was impetuous, naive, and heedless of the dangers he was facing, but he was also an idealist searching for some kind of meaning in life. Like many people before him, John Muir most notably, he was searching for an answer in nature. Being young myself, I can identify a lot with McCandless. Death seems so remote you don’t even consider it. There’s no way anything bad could ever happen to you. You’re young and have everything ahead of you.
I’m sure in some ways this was McCandless’s thought pattern as well. He was so convinced of his own intellect and knew that he could make it. He had never failed at anything he had tried before and had always been praised for his intelligence and unwavering beliefs. He was a self made outcast. He shed society’s layers as best as he could only to realize that “happiness is best when shared.” I’m a firm believer that it’s the people around us that help us lead a full and satisfying life. It’s people that push us to grow and change in ways that we might not left to our own devices.
One of my favorite aspects of this novel was how thoroughly Krakauer looked into the history of travelers like McCandless. I couldn’t believe that so many people have walked into the wild never to walk out again. There are tales of teens disappearing in the desert, a climber vanishing in the mountains of Alaska, and British soldiers from the 1800’s dying in the arctic. I think in some way everyone is interested in what’s out there. That’s why we travel to other places to discover new things, people, and cultures. Most of us just travel from city to city instead of into the wilds. But we’re all bitten by some kind of wanderlust, an interest in things outside of ourselves.
There are many decisions that McCandless made heedlessly, as many before him had done. Yet, he was not one of the lucky ones. He didn’t survive his trek into the wild. The odds were stacked against him. Yet he made an impact on the world through what he left behind. After reading Krakauer’s novel I feel like I got to personally know McCandless and see a bit into his heart.
Rating: 5/5 Such a compelling, albeit tragic, story.
Stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015.
Before I watched the movie and read this book I, like many people I’m sure, never even heard of the Pacific Crest Trail, or PCT. The full trail spans from Mexico to Canada and took many decades to enact and build. Just imagining how large the trail spans is more than my mind can encompass. The thousands of miles is an incredible feat to hike let alone the differences in terrain and climate. Yet, that’s exactly what author Cheryl Strayed did. She didn’t hike the entirety of the PCT but instead chose to hike from the Mojave Desert to the Bridge of the Gods on the Oregon/Washington border. Strayed hiked a whopping 1100 miles in total!
Wild chronicles Strayed’s hike of the PCT and the reasons she decided to hike the trail in the first place. Following her mother’s death and her divorce from her husband Paul, Strayed portrays the desperate downward spiral she found herself caught up in. In order to pull herself out of this downward spiral, she made the decision to hike the PCT to heal herself. To me, this novel read almost as a confessional. The last phase in her journey to heal the wounds of the past and move on. At times hilarious and heart wrenching, I found myself unable to put the book down. I loved the imagery of the PCT that Strayed evokes in her writing. I could imagine the desert and it’s vastness as well as the Oregon forest and it’s cocoon of trees. The animals and the people Strayed meets on her journey, both friend and foe.
The biggest thing though was how complete the book felt as compared to the movie. The movie, as I mentioned in my previous post, was filled with so many holes I was left a bit confused as to the timeline of things. The book filled in those holes and presented an almost completely new timeline of events. The movie combined different events from different parts of the book to make a scene and I think this was the reason I was so confused. Some of the mash-ups just didn’t quite go, especially now that I know their rightful place in the timeline of events. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the movie but the old adage remains, read the book first. It will make a whole lot more sense.
Final rating: 4/5
Stay tuned for the next book in the battle. It’s a classic!
The next book up in the battle is Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild. Now I admit I’ve already seen the movie which is unusual for me because I usually like to read the book before the movie, but alas that’s not the case this time. It will be interesting, though, to do the reverse of what I usually do and compare the movie to the book instead of the other way around. One thing I do hope is that the book fills in some holes left ambiguous by the movie. There were particular scenes in the movie where I guess it was presumed you’d just know who people were and in which state things were happening. The flashbacks and flash forwards in particular weren’t all explained they just kind of happened so I’m hoping the book will make sense of those scenes.
Now, some of my friends have already read the memoir and loved it so I have pretty high expectations for this book. The last memoir I read was The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and I absolutely fell in love with that book. I even considered breaking the rules of the Book Battle to re-read it because it was that good. But I stuck to the guns of the Book Battle and chose something new. And I must say I’m pretty happy with my choice even having just read the back cover of the book. It sparked my wanderlust. I’ve always wanted to go on a backpacking trip but have yet to do it. Perhaps this book will inspire me to take action and just go for it.
What’s next on your reading list?